Thursday, August 22, 2013

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Eye to the Infinite - The Eye, the I and the Ayin – Part 3

(returning after an extended pause…)

We are pleased to offer Eye to the Infinite, a Torah Guide to Jewish Mediations for Divine Awareness, in a weekly serialized form – with permission from and offer by the author…

Eye to the Infinite – A Torah Guide to Jewish Meditations to Increase Divine Awareness.

A Compendium of Meditations and Techniques, adapted from the Writings and Teachings of the Masters of Kabbalah and Jewish Theology.

The book and this post Copyright © 2013 by Aharon Rubin – serialized on the Mystical Paths blog with permission.

The Eng­lish word eye sounds like I, a word that de­scribes the boundaries and signifi­cance of the self as pri­mary, significant and apart from oth­ers, the exact op­posite of the He­brew AYiN (nothing­ness). This is not an ac­ci­dent. Hebrew, the an­cient tongue used by G-d to communi­cate with His proph­ets and the first di­rect manifes­tation of G-d’s thought in a me­dium un­der­standable by man,[1] reveals, through its linguistic nuances, idio­syn­cratic ana­grams and homo­phones, the in­ner truth and real­ity.[2] Other lan­guages (particularly the more mod­ern), por­tray a more super­fi­cial real­ity,[3] re­moved from the abso­lute truth. Though they might re­flect some im­age or percep­tion, the mes­sage is often dis­torted; the further languages are removed from the original source, the more the inner ideas meta­morphose. Of all the five senses, the eye contributes most to one’s self awareness, cre­at­ing an im­pres­sion of indi­vidu­al­ity and sepa­rate­ness, which helps de­velop iden­tity and persona.[4] This is the mes­sage of the English word “eye” and its homophone, “I”. The He­brew word AYiN, on the other hand, talks about the eye’s inter­nal struc­ture and mecha­nism. More so than any other or­gan, the eye is teaching us how to con­nect to the world, to ap­pre­ci­ate the other and to empa­thise. It teaches the se­cret of self-nega­tion. The purpose of the ego, the “I” – the אניANiY – is to em­body and trans­mit that aware­ness. The אני is a vehi­cle of the indi­vidual’s expres­sion and grasp of the איןAYiN. [5] 

This brings us to another striking similarity between two ap­parently unconnected words. The He­brew for I, ANiYאני, is an anto­nym and ana­gram of AYiNאין, the word for “noth­ing­ness.” The ANiY, the “I” of each individual, is a step­ping-stone to G-d. By reason of our apparent individuality and separateness from G‑d, we have the ability to nullify ourselves to G-d, to reach out and touch the AYiN. By look­ing up toward G-d, the ANiY (the ego) dis­solves its protective boundaries. It then un­dergoes a metamor­phosis and changes into AYiN (self-ne­ga­tion), which at­taches to the ultimate AYiN, the Ein Sof, the In­fi­nite One. [6]

This is a two-way proc­ess. Opening our hearts to the Infi­nite al­lows His in­flux to in­spire and ig­nite our minds, to en­ter our existence and build our Malchuth Shomayim, King­dom of Heaven, our indi­vid­ual aniy of G-d, our personal House for G-d on Earth. By dissolv­ing our separate­ness and at­tach­ing to Heaven, the letter (ע - AYiN) that repre­sents the caligi­nous, outer shell, [7] the du­plic­ity of pur­pose, be­comes a letter of unity(אALeF) [8] the עין be­comes [9] אין and the kos­nos orכתנות עור – the veils of physi­cal­ity, be­come [10] נות אור – rai­ment of light.


[1] Rabbi Avrohom Abulafia says שפה ברורה – the "speech" of the angels, is the same gema­triah as לשון קודש. The higher form of communication used in heaven is reflected most clearly in the holy tongue. For further discussion regarding languages, see Maor Einayim Parshas Beshalach and Pri Ho’orets Parshas Vayigash who discuss the possibility of “the holy tongue” as referring to the inner content and intention, rather than a spe­cific language.

[2] Avodas Yisroel (Rabbi Yisroel of Koznits), Beshalach. See also Zohar Vol III, 204a.

[In “Coincidences in the Bible and in Bibli­cal Hebrew,” Professor Chaim Shore gives numerous examples to illustrate that, “Biblical Hebrew reflects the inner structure of the physical world.” For example, “Numerical values of words re­lating to velocity, i.e. light (Or), sound (Qol) and silence (Dmomoh), or to the extremities of velocity, i.e. lightening (Boroq), thunder (Ra’am) and standstill (Dmomoh), when plotted against their re­spective velocities (on a log-scale), give a straight-line graph.”]

[3] Talmud Shabbos 12a. There are many other examples of this. The He­brew word for “face” is פנים – “Ponim.” The same root letters, penim means “inner”, which suggests a pos­si­ble connec­tion between the face, the outside appearance, and the inner person. Indeed, our sages say that outside behaviour should reflect the inner character, the true “face”, i.e. ponim should reflect the penim – the inner person (Brochos 28a). The English word “face” on the other hand is related to “façade”, a mask. A person can have many different “faces”. Perhaps English culture de­mands that the “face” hide the truth of the inner self.

[4] See Igro DePirkoh (Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiroh from Dinov) note 160, in the name of the Ari: “Sight is the closest of the senses to Da’ath ….”

[5] Thus the word אני - ani - can be seen to be related to the word אניה (oniyoh) - ship, and to אנא (onoh) meaning “where”; the ANiY is a vessel [ship] to the soul so that the Di­vine is expressed within time and space [where].

[6] See also the prayer נשמת – Nishmas (Shabbos Morning Prayers) “and every eye longs for You, etc.”

[7] In the original Ksav Libuno’oh [common script preceding Ksav Ashuris, see Sanhed­rin 21b], the letter Ayin took the form of a circle.

[8] The letter Aleph sounds like and is thus interchangeable with the letter Ayin, as ex­plained above.

[9] ענוה – humility, is the awareness of the self next to one’s awareness of G-d. Thus, עין plus the letter א, or אין plus ע, has a gematriah of ענוה.

[10] Midrash Rabboh, Genesis 20. The Tanna Rabbi Meir annotated a note to his Torah Scroll. On ‘“And G-d made for them garments of skin” (Gen.3:21) he appended ‘“gar­ments of light,” homileti­cally exchanging the letter ayin in the word for skin, עור, for an aleph, אור, light, thus כתנות אור, garments of light. See also Ohr HaChaim, Sh’mos 34:35.

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